Rani Rukmini ‘s title is Her Highness Bharani Tirunal Rukmini Bayi Tampuran, Fourth Princess of Travancore. She hails from a dynasty that traces its lineage back to 1200 years. She is the granddaughter of the father of Modern art Raja Ravi Varma. She has blazed a new trail and now is settled in Bangalore, living almost like a recluse. Her paintings, particularly of the female body have however adorned museums and homes all over the world.
Rukmini started painting at a young age and after 1947, she began to develop her art. In-between she took up dance but gave it up as it was felt that a Royal princess should not dance. She reverted back to painting
Rukmini returned to painting for the simple reason that she loved to paint. She painted with vigor and by 1970 she had completed her first series of oil paintings, which were exhibited in Bangalore to positive reviews. Her second exhibition in 1973 saw 34 of the 39 paintings displayed being sold in a matter of days.
In 1976, upon invitation, Rukmini embarked on her first major international exhibition at India House in London, which was opened by Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India. He was impressed with her and asked she would paint a portrait of him in traditional Indian attire, wearing a turban and an achkan. However his untimely death in a bomb blast ended the project
She exhibited paintings at Bonn, Cologne, and Neuenahr in Germany, along with invitations fromParis, Zurich, Madrid, and Rome. Her paintings of “flesh and gems” which had voluptuous nudes in mythological settings were a hit. She believed in celebration of the human, particularly female body.
Rukmini blazed a trail in India by painting characters from Hindu Mythology in the nude. Swami Chinmayananda advised her not to paint Hindu Mythological characters in the nude, but she rejected his advice..
She wrote: . I am certain …to paint flesh as flesh is, without restrictions…’ Rukmini painted nudes from her ‘Pratiksha’ series was quietly sold into private collections in India and abroad, and was not exhibited anywhere so as not to provoke orthodoxy.
For the last 18 years Rukmini is living at Bangalore. She spends her time paining and at 73 remains a beautiful woman. She remains India’s foremost painter of mythological nudes of women. This shows her courage and genius.